TULSA, Okla. – It has been said that sloppy wins count as much as the neat ones, and that was certainly the case as the Tulsa Oilers finally got into the win column of the ECHL Western Conference Finals with a 4-1 victory over the Toledo Walleye at home in the BOK Center in front of 3,573.
The Oilers, who had fallen behind the eight-ball after two straight losses in Ohio, came out sluggish and pensive in the opening period, not generating a great deal of offense and seeing the Walleye slowly mount a shots-on-goal advantage using Tulsa goalie Devin Williams for target practice.
That changed when on an odd man rush, Stephen Perfetto and Alex Dostie cruised in on Toledo goalie Pat Nagle. Perfetto slid the puck to Dostie, who fired it past Nagle and the Oilers got the lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the night.
Tulsa Head Coach Rob Murray commented on how the Oilers escaped the first period with the lead, despite the off-kilter play.
“The first period was our worst period of the playoffs, and that is saying a lot. I told the guys…when we came out 1-0, that was our mulligan. We were lucky. I am not sure there were high-quality chances against, yet we did not manage the puck well and were turning it over. But we survived it.”
One of the things Tulsa has done right all season long is translating Murray’s intermission instructions into solid mid-game adjustments. That was certainly the the case in the middle frame, as the Oilers fired 20 shots at Nagle, who turned them all aside.
Oilers team captain Adam Pleskach gave the Oilers a second goal just seventy-one seconds into the third period (and on a power play) when he deftly redirected a pass from Perfetto to open up a two-goal lead over the Walleye. Dylan Sadowy ruined Williams playoff shutout bid when he went through the five-hole to bring Toledo to within a goal.
Ten minutes later, at 17:43 of the period, Ryan Tesink scooted out into the slot in front of nagle and blasted the puck past him to give the Oilers back a two-goal lead, capped off by an empty net buzzer beater to give the Oilers a victory in the very first Conference Final game played in Tulsa and extend the Oilers to a 7-1 record on home ice in the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs to date.
After two straight losses in Toledo, a win on home ice was a relief for Murray, who kept things in perspective after the game:
“I thought we played a lot better. We had trouble managing the puck in our own zone at times. But the whole game, in general, was a lot better played by us. We had an excellent play from (Stephen) Perfetto to (Adam) Pleskach. (Alex) Dostie had an excellent game again, and (Tanner) Kaspick played a really solid game for us. (Devin) Williams was good. It was a better team effort, and that is what it is going to take. We need everyone firing on all cylinders.”
The two teams will return to the BOK Center for at least two more games as of right now, which will take place this Friday and Saturday night. Tulsa will look to even the series (and potentially take the lead) while Toledo will look to regroup and take back a two-game lead and possibly finish out the series.